I believe there is a place for what I call sanctified imagination. If Christians are right about their immediately going to be “with the Lord” upon death, wouldn’t it be the case that Lazarus has just spent several days with His Lord? In heaven?
I know. I know. Some believers think that the Old Testament saints went to a kind of pre-heaven, a holding tank where they awaited the Lord Jesus’ completing the work of atonement and then they would be transferred into heaven proper.
I know the theory. I don’t buy it. I don’t think David and Moses and Abraham were in a lesser state of existence after they died simply because they were Old Testament believers.
So, if we assume Lazarus had been with the Father in heaven, let’s go one step further and imagine a conversation the two had together:
The Father: “Lazarus, it is so good to have you here!”
Lazarus: “Yes, Lord. That sickness was awful and I thought Your Son would save me from death, but I’m sure He had His reasons for staying away.”
The Father: “Yes, Lazarus. About that. We have a plan, but we need your help.”
Lazarus: “My help? I’m dead, Lord.”
The Father: “Yes, yes. I know. And I’m sure you are enjoying the sights and sounds here in heaven with me.”
Lazarus: “Absolutely. It makes death almost welcome to be here with You!”
The Father: “Lazarus, there was something far more important for my Son than His keeping you from dying.”
Lazarus: “Whatever could that be, Lord?
The Father: “Raising you from the dead, as a public event, would provide a significant proof of my Son’s identity and that I sent Him to planet earth on His mission.”
Lazarus: “I’m more than glad to help, Father. But wouldn’t that mean . . .”
The Father: “Yes, Lazarus. I’m afraid so. I need you to go back and get resurrected.”
Lazarus: “Father, I will do it. I want Your Son brought glory more than anything else. More than I want to be with You here in heaven!”
The next voice Lazarus heard was Jesus’ — and it was shouting, “Lazarus, come out!” (to be continued)